The grey areas in America’s understanding of race


Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Why should it have taken a Kamala Harris – half Jamaican, half Indian, all American – to show the United States that race isn’t a Black or White matter?

Perhaps because people can be fairly “illiterate” about multiracial identity. So says Nitasha Tamar Sharma, a professor at Northwestern University specializing in African American and Asian American studies.

That’s an acute diagnosis but it’s still not clear why people are afflicted by the condition. After all, as has been reported by Vox, a Pew Research Center estimate of America’s multiracial population shows it is 6.9 per cent. And the US Census Bureau estimates that America’s multiracial population will triple by 2060.

Black people in America are of disparate ethnicities, not least Caribbean. One out of every ten American immigrants — roughly 4.4 million people — is from a Caribbean nation.

Ethnic Indians are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the US electorate. Pew has found that Asian American eligible voters grew 139 per cent in the 20 years since 2000.

Clearly Ms Harris is the very embodiment of America’s many-layered and complex reality. That it took her presence on a major party’s presidential ticket to drive home that point is a sign that discussion of race and identity has been too binary.